THEME: Fresh beginning comes after judgment; the fresh beginning of PROMISE.
Numbers 26 follows the horrible judgment of Numbers 25—the plague judgment on the whorish behavior of Israel in the matter of Baal-Peor.
Twenty-three thousand Israelites died in that plague—a number greater than the 23,000 males of the military census from the entire tribe of Levi. (26:62) Phineas the grandson of Aaron slew Zimri the Simeonite leader, along with Cozbi the Midianite princess, in one stroke with a spear. This atoned for the intense wrath of God against the holy nation for its descent into debauchery and idolatry.
The social and spiritual collapse of Israel was the doing of Balaam—he taught the Midianites and the Moabites (25:1, 6) how to cause wrath to rain down on Israel by seducing them into idolatrous orgies. This he did in the place of cursing them. And for this act, Balaam was eventually slain by Israel.
The intense wrath of God was expressed in the form of a plague. When Phineas slew the flagrantly-sinning couple, the plague stopped; and immediately thereafter, God gave to Phineas a perpetual covenant of priesthood and peace.
Sin is an unpopular doctrine in our time. But it is just as real as cancer. The only solution for it is death. (Romans 6:23) The death provided to the Christian is identity with Messiah Jesus in his crucifixion—but also provided to us is the New Life that is ours through His Resurrection! That is where our hope lies—in Him: His death; His burial; His resurrection; and Ours With Him. (Gal. 2:20)
AFTER THE PLAGUE of Numbers 25 came the New Census of Numbers 26 and the New Beginning of the Gift of the Land of Promise. (26:52 seq.)
There is a cleansing the comes with Divine Judgment: Divine Judgment is not for utter destruction; rather it is for purging from that which causes death so that new life may emerge and grow to fruitfulness.
May the LORD awaken our hearts to understand that His Ways are for our good, and not for our harm. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Let us remember the AFTER so that we may arrive at the PROMISE. (2 Peter 3:11-14)